List of birth control pills that help control acne

Updated March 23, 2017

In the quest to cure acne, people, especially women, will turn to every lotion, gel, scrub or ointment. However, some doctors are now prescribing oral contraceptives to help fight acne when other methods of curing acne fail. America's Food and Drug Administration has approved three different name brands of oral contraceptives to fight acne specifically: Yaz, Estrostep and Ortho Tri-cyclen.


Yaz is a combination birth control pill, comprised of progestin and a low dosage of oestrogen. This combination of hormones works to lower the androgen hormones in the body. Once that happens, the production level of acne-causing sebum and bacteria decreases, therefore decreasing the probability of acne blemishes. Yaz is on a 24/4 dosing schedule, meaning that 24 active pills and four placebo pills are taken as a part of the regimen. If you decide to take Yaz, it's important to take the pill at the same time every day. Failure to do this can cause fluctuations in hormone levels that can cause breakthrough bleedings and moodiness.


Estrostep was approved in 2001 to fight acne vulgaris in women ages 15 and over. Like Yaz, it contains low levels of oestrogen and progestin that lower androgen hormones levels in the body. Its chemical composition of norethindrone and ethinyl estradiol also decreases free testosterone, decreasing the production of sebum in the body. Estrostep is taken on a 21/7 dosing schedule, with 21 active contraceptive pills and seven placebo pills. Like with Yaz, it's important to take Estrostep every day for maximum benefit.

Ortho Tri-cyclen

Ortho Tri-cyclen was approved to fight acne in 1997 and is one of the most common oral contraceptives prescribed for this use. As with Yaz and Estrostep, Ortho Tri-cylcen works by lowering androgen hormones in the body that cause sebum production. Ortho Tri-cylcen, like Estrostep, is taken on a 21/7 dosing schedule, with 21 active contraceptive pills and seven placebo pills.

Which is right for you?

The oral contraceptives that are approved to fight acne are very similar, so you may wonder how to decide which to take to fight your acne. This is up to your and your doctor. If you prefer to have shorter periods during your menstrual cycle, then taking Yaz may be the best choice for you. You may opt to take the pill that costs the least: these oral contraceptives differ greatly in price, depending on your medical insurance. Also, your doctor may recommend one over the other based on your medical history.

The important thing to remember is that it won't happen overnight and many times your acne will get worse before it gets better. It's important to commit to an oral contraceptive for a few months to gauge your progress before you decide to change medications.

Possible side effects

Every medication, including oral contraceptives, poses the risk for serious side effects. Common side effects that patients have reported include weight gain, bleeding between periods, nausea and mood swings. Serious, but rare, side effects include headaches, hypertension, depression and stroke.

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About the Author

Lea Winters has written professionally since 2003. Her work has appeared in a variety of publications, covering entertainment, style and beauty topics. Winters holds a Bachelor of Journalism and a Bachelor of Science in international business from the University of Nebraska.